Arsenal ground out yet another 2-0 win at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday, as two second half goals from Santi Cazorla saw off a spirited Fulham side and kept the North London side top.
The Gunners labored at times and visitors Fulham looked dangerous on the break, but Arsene Wenger’s men grabbed their third-straight 2-0 victory at home thanks to Cazorla’s two cool finishes, one with either foot, after patient build up play around the box.
Fulham were always going to park the bus, and they did that remarkably well in the first half to frustrate the Gunners. But two goals in five second half minutes from Cazorla sees Arsenal keep their place at the PL summit, as Wenger’s men got the job done.
Hardly a vintage display but Arsenal are in first place with 51 points from 22 games, while Fulham are still battling away at the wrong end of the table as they sit just one point and one place above the relegation zone.
A bright start for Arsenal saw the home side take the game to Fulham, but the Cottagers looked solid and reduced the Gunners to long-range efforts and only Mesut Ozil got in behind but he got his shot all wrong when clean through as Fulham cleared the danger.
Arsenal huffed and puffed but it was Fulham who had the best effort on goal in the early stages. Dimitar Berbatov, a player Arsene Wenger admires, broke free down the right and found Steve Sidwell on the edge of the box and the former Arsenal youth team player volleyed a fine effort in on goal that Wojciech Szczesny palmed away to safety.
Fulham were ruffling a few of Arsenal’s feathers with some hefty challenges in the midfield as Rene Muelensteen’s side were certainly forcing the issue. Young German attacker Serge Gnabry was trying engineer some opportunities but he couldn’t unlock Fulham’s defense in the first half.
After the break the Cottagers again looked lively as a corner caused mayhem in the Arsenal box, but the Gunners cleared and they were soon ahead after finally finding their shooting boots.
First Bacary Sagna saw his effort cleared of the line and Fulham somehow scrambled the ball away, but then from the left flank Cazorla continued his run after starting the move and Wilshere slotted the Spaniard in to make it 1-0 the Gunners in the 57th minute. That goal opened the floodgates, as Cazorla bagged his second five minutes later as the diminutive midfielder ran towards Fulham’s defense unmarked and arrowed a low shot past Stekelenburg for his and Arsenal’s second.
Substitute Lukas Podolski went close to grabbing Arsenal’s third goal of the game, as the German international was thwarted by a tremendous stop by Stekelenburg who tipped a rasping effort onto the post in the 71st minute. For the rest of the game Arsenal stroked the ball around comfortably as they passed Fulham into submission, with only Darren Bent’s unsuccessful penalty appeal to shout about late on for the Cottagers.
Arsenal: Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Flamini, Wilshere, Cazorla, Gnabry (Podolski, 71), Ozil (Chamberlain, 86), Giroud
Goals: Cazorla (57 & 62)
Fulham: Stekelenburg; Riether, Burn, Hangeland, Richardson; Dejagah (Bent, 68), Sidwell, Parker, Kacaniklic (Kasami, 86); Dempsey, Berbatov